Where There’s a Will There’s a Way: A Strong Will Helps New Time Management Strategies Stick
It’s been a little over a month since the time of making New Year’s Resolutions or, as we recommend, New Year’s Re-solutions. Second only to weight loss, the most popular New Year’s Resolution for 2012 is getting more organized. For the majority of my clients, improving their organizational skills means trading in old, time-sucking habits for new, efficient time-management strategies. That’s the reason why my presentation, “There Really Are Enough Hours In the Day,” always seems to be in demand. While time management strategies work only when successfully implemented, which requires you to change your behavior. While changing behavior involves many steps, one thing that increases our success is willpower. After all, we have been taught all our lives that “where there’s a will there’s a way,” right?” Wrong!
Well, it may not be completely wrong, but my clients have shown me that the power of the “will” is not quite that simple. Over the years, I’ve found that people who have the strongest wills (defined as “high levels of determination or the desire to choose one’s own actions”) are often the ones who remain wedded to bad habits. Their will actually gets in their way, rather than creating a new one. In fact, I would go so far as to say that when it comes to learning and implementing new time management strategies, where there’s a will there’s a wall; not a way!
Why? Because individuals with a strong will tend to put up the most resistance to change; particularly if it is perceived as coming from the outside There are many for failing to make time management strategies stick, such as failing to “visualize your goal,” or “emotionalize the consequence of not achieving your goal.” But these things have to do with looking ahead when the strategies are implemented or what it feels like if they are not. They offer you incentives for moving forward.
But how do we let go of those things that are holding us back? I’m not just talking about bad habits; that’s a matter of changing behaviors. I’m talking about letting go of (or rather, breaking through) the wall that is inside of us – that tells us we’ll be losing something precious if we change our behavior. We have been taught that failing to change bad habits, such as poor time management, comes from being weak willed rather than strong willed. But to those who are used to making their own decisions in their own time, adopting new time management strategies can feel like a yolk around their neck, limiting their freedom, spontaneity and creativity.
A Battle of Wills Over Time Management
My colleague’s work with an arts organization serves as an instructive example. She just finished helping them work through a battle of wills between the new Executive Director and the artists, who teach pottery to at-risk kids. The Executive Director (a former corporate COO) wanted the artists to begin time studies, tracking their time hourly for one month, to identify areas of inefficiency. The artists baulked at the suggestion, certain it would rob them and the organization of the fluidity necessary for artistic creativity. Ultimately the time studies demonstrated that although the artists perceived that they had the freedom of choice when it came to determining their schedules (which then enabled them to be more creative) this perception was false (or what I like to call, “a limiting belief). In reality, their lack of prioritizing and goal setting actually caused them to stay late (for last minute kiln firings), work over the weekends (to catch up on unfinished paperwork from the week) and make less money (by buying extra supplies because they had no time to submit a purchase request). In other words, their will to determine their own choices - free of the yolk of strategic time management - was actually limiting their freedom and robbing them of the refueling time needed to spark creativity. As Peter Drucker would say, they may have been doing everything right, but they weren’t doing the right things. The first has to do with being efficient, the second has to do with being effective.
What about you? When the rubber hits the road, how willing (there’s that word “will” again) are you to implement time management strategies? Are you willing, but find it difficult; or do you find it difficult because you are unwilling?
For some, creating successful and sustainable change in time management habits requires willpower. For you, it may require submitting your will to the power of an effective time management process. In doing so, like the artists you may find that what you were most afraid of losing if you were forced to manage your time – the freedom of choice, creativity and spontaneity – was something you never really had in the first place because your time was managing you.